The Royal Canadian Mint is issuing a new $1 commemorative circulation coin honoring Elsie MacGill, an exceptional Canadian who broke barriers as an engineer and leading advocate of women’s rights. Responsible for many firsts as a woman studying and practicing engineering, she was celebrated for setting up the Canadian production of the Hawker Hurricane fighter plane during World War II. Her lifelong advocacy for women’s rights included her appointment to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967. This special coin recognizing the tremendous legacy of Elsie MacGill begins circulating on Monday, August 1, 2023.
“Through her dedication and an unshakeable belief that there was nothing women could not do, Elsie MacGill broke the glass ceiling for Canadian women pursuing careers in engineering, and made historic contributions to Canada’s efforts during the Second World War,” said The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance. “I am so pleased that this commemorative coin will honor the legacy of a remarkable champion of women’s rights, and will share her story with a new generation of Canadians.”
“Inspiring Canadians through stories of exceptional achievement is one of the most important functions of commemorative circulation coins,” said Marie Lemay, P. Eng., ing., President and CEO of the Royal Canadian Mint. “What Elsie MacGill achieved as a trail blazing aeronautical engineer, and as a champion of women’s rights, made a difference in her lifetime and continues to influence us today. Hers is a story that needs to be shown and celebrated on a circulation coin that will be shared by millions of Canadians of all ages.”
The artwork appearing on the reverse of the 2023 $1 circulation coin celebrating Elsie MacGill is the creation of Tofino, British Columbia artist Claire Watson. It features Elsie MacGill holding a pair of rolled-up blueprints. Flying above her is the Maple Leaf Trainer II that she designed and beside her appears one of the over 1,450 Canadian-made Hawker Hurricane fighter planes that she helped produce for the Allied war effort in the Second World War, as Chief Engineer of Canadian Car and Foundry in Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay). She was known as the “Queen of the Hurricanes” for that unique wartime contribution. Her name, “Elsie MacGill”, is engraved beneath the fighter plane. The obverse of this coin features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Susanna Blunt.
Elsie MacGill is widely credited as: the first woman in Canada to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering (University of Toronto, 1927); the first woman in North America to graduate with a Master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering (University of Michigan, 1929); the first woman in Canada to become a practising engineer (1938); as well as the first North American woman, and possibly the world, to design an aircraft that was produced under her direction through to prototype (the Maple Leaf II trainer). Although her education and career were interrupted in 1929 by a form of polio that affected her mobility for the rest of her life, she persevered and excelled in aeronautics.
In fact, in 1938, she accepted a post as Chief Engineer at the Canadian Car and Foundry plant in Fort William (Thunder Bay), Ontario. Her tenure there lasted until 1943, encompassing the first years of the Second World War. During her that time, she played a key role in re-tooling the factory for the production of over 1,450 Hawker Hurricanes, and spearheaded improvements for cold-weather performance by designing specific adaptations such as ski landing gear and de-icing capabilities.
“Apart from all of her other notable achievements, she was a wonderful grandmother. I spent nearly every Sunday evening during my high school years with Elsie and my grandfather, Bill Soulsby,” said grandson Rohan Soulsby. “There was never any shortage of interesting conversation around the dinner table as we discussed current events in Canada and around the world on topics ranging from politics to women’s rights to aviation, music and the arts. On top of all that, she also made an awesome peach pie!”
After the war, she continued her career in aeronautics, aiding in the development of international civil aviation safety standards. She also increasingly focused on her passionate work as a critical and influential advocate for women’s rights and professional equality. She presided over the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs from 1962-64 and was appointed a Commissioner on the Royal Commission on the Status of Women in 1967.
“Elsie MacGill always looked to the horizon in her engineering and feminist endeavors and sought to move beyond it,” said Elsie MacGill biographer Dr. Crystal Sissons. “She was not deterred by setbacks, and she knew the value of teamwork and harnessing the support and cooperation of her colleagues in both fields to effect the changes she desired. She believed Canadians could work together to soar beyond social and technical limitations.”
Limited to a mintage of three million coins, of which two million will be colored, this new Elsie MacGill $1 circulation coin begins circulating on August 1, 2023. It will reach Canadians through their change as bank branches and businesses replenish their inventories of $1 coins.
The colored and uncolored circulation coin are also available as collectibles in a six-piece Collector Keepsake coin set. They are packaged in a richly illustrated collector card that contains uncirculated versions of classic 2023-dated circulation coins, from five cents to two dollars.
Other collector products adding to the celebration of Elsie MacGill include:
- Colored and uncolored limited-edition special wrap rolls of 25 uncirculated coins each (uncolored rolls only available in a Special Wrap Roll Set), and
- A commemorative Collector Keepsake Card featuring both versions of the circulation coin, packaged with uncirculated versions of 2023 classic circulation coins (5-cent to $2).
These collectibles can be ordered by contacting the Mint at 1-800-267-1871 in Canada, 1-800-268-6468 in the US, or online at www.mint.ca/macgill. They are also available at the Royal Canadian Mint’s Winnipeg boutique, as well as through the Mint’s global network of dealers and distributors, including participating Canada Post outlets.
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About the Royal Canadian Mint
The Royal Canadian Mint is the Crown corporation responsible for the minting and distribution of Canada’s circulation coins. The Mint is recognized as one of the largest and most versatile mints in the world, offering a wide range of specialized, high-quality coinage products and related services on an international scale. For more information on the Mint, its products and services, visit www.mint.ca.